Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wait...I didn't sign up for this!

Have you ever looked in on someone's life and, I wish I could be them? I find it increasing easier to fall into this state of thinking with facebook prying the doors of our lives open for the world to see. I realize that things aren't always the way the seem to apprear, but for the most's still easy to live in the land of If only.....

A few weeks ago I started reading through the Gospel of Matthew, and I just can't seem to get over chapter 1. Instead of continuing to chapter 2...I skipped ahead to the Gospel of Luke. The beginnings of both books open with an angel of the Lord that comes to Joseph and Mary to announce that Mary will be found with child even though she has been untouched. This baby will be the Son of the Most High.

Hmp! What a thought... I kind of wonder what they were thinking. Matthew explains that before the angel had appeared to Joseph, Joseph was planning to divorce Mary quietly. Luke describes Mary questioning how this could possibly happen seeing as she is a virgin. It seems to me that this "Good News" did not feel like good news to either of them at first.

You might think that hearing the news that your baby was going to be the Son of the Most High would be exhilerating! You know that feeling you get when you hear really good news? You feel like jumping up and down and shouting for joy and you just can't stop smiling no matter how hard you try. This should have been the ultimate good news! Jesus is the definition of Good News!

But, (I think) Mary and Joseph were both a little bit afraid. They weren't quite sure how it was going to work. They had been planning on a "normal" life. Get married first...then have a family. Now all of a sudden they get this Good News!

I wonder if Mary or Joseph ever looked in on their friends' lives and wished upon them or day-dreamed of being them. It would have been easy to have the "normal" life. But, God had other plans. And, both Joseph and Mary were willing to go along with those plans. They didn't sign up for it, but they loved God and trusted in His good and perfect plan. And, the rest is history.

Sometimes I feel really discouraged about where God has me...His lack of knowledge of His plan... I often think...I didn't sign up for feeling like this all the time. I didn't sign up for waiting waiting and more waiting. I didn't sign up for walking blindly. Then, I remember I kind of did. The second I said "I do" to Christ, I signed up for this rollercoaster. God's plan is so much better than anything I could ever imagine. Do you think Mary and Joseph would have traded their story for ANYTHING else? I don't. I think they are SO happy that they trusted God and obeyed.

Father Lord, help me to trust and obey You. Let me lean on Your promises. I am exactly where You want me. And, being uncomfortable for a little while in order to fulfill your plan is better than any comfort I could dream up for myself. Thank You for Your Son, God. And, thank You for the way in which You chose to bring Him into this world. It's easy to question Your ways, Lord. Help me to remember that You ways are higher than my ways. God, You are so good. I am so in love with You. Let me fall even more in love with You each day. Satisfy me from the inside out. Love You Always, Alliegirl

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Disasterous Distractions

So a few Friday nights ago I went to bed with the intention that I was going to get up early and get a lot done on Saturday. So, my alarm went off around 8, and I oh so graciously hit the snooz. Then about 10 o'clock I finally peeled myself out of bed.

After finally getting ready for the day I sat down at my desk to get some things accomplished. The first thing on my list was to e-mail one of my professors. So I logged on to my e-mail account and what do you know?! An e-mail from Mom. I opened it and watched the funny youtube video of the cat...which of course brought up related videos. And I of course decided watching one more wouldn't hurt. At the risk of being viewed as a girl with a cat obsession, I'll admit this went on for an hour!

Finally I came to my senses and logged off my e-mail. I looked down at my list of things to do and realized I never e-mailed my professor (which was the whole purpose of getting on my e-mail).

As well as a good chuckle, this story gave me a thought. How easy it is to get distracted! I'm not just talking about getting distracted from lists of things to do. So often I get distracted from doing what God asks of me. Whether He asks me to trust Him, have a particular mindset, complete a certain's easy to get distracted!

I love reading 2 Timothy. As Paul's last piece of literature, I can't help but know his words of are infinite importance. Not only are they God-breathed, but they are Paul's last words to Timothy (my intention here is not to belittle the inspiration of God but to emphasize another often overlooked thought). Last words are usually pretty important. Paul could have wrote anything, but he chose the words that make up the book of 2 Timothy.

One of the first things Paul writes is an encouragement to Timothy to be faithful. He writes in verse 7 of chapter 1 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." Aha! Self-discipline! My first problem.

Paul goes on to write in verse 14 "Guard the good deposite that was entrusted to you - gaurd it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." That list of things I had to do on Saturday was far more important than watching worthless videos of cats. Even more so, what God has revealed to me, His requests, are MUCH more important than the many things that distract me from following His guidance. Good thing I have the Holy Spirit - a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline!

Paul continues in chapter 2 to encourage Timothy to endure hardship like a soldier, to compete according to the rules as an athlete, and to work hard like a farmer. A distraction would be seriously disasterous to any of these. Think about it. A soldier might miss his target if his eye is caught by something else. A runner might lose his footing if he doesn't keep his eyes forward. A farmer might ruin all his crops if he fails to care for them while being distracted for a period of time on another project.

Similarly, think of the detriment being distracted from God's precious plans could have on a believer. Any distraction not only interferes with God's plan, it also allows room for us to get our priorities out of line. Paul urges Timothy to "flee the evil desires of youth" (2:22) so he won't become a "lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God" (3:4).

I'd like to share a story called "The Devil's Convention." It's a very good illustration of just how disasterous distractions can be.

Satan called a worldwide convention.
In his opening address to his evil angels, he said,'We can't keep the Christians from going to church.' 'We cannot keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth.' 'We cannot even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to their churches; let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't gain that relationship with Jesus Christ.'

'This is what I want you to do angels ... Distract them from gaining hold of their Saviour and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!'

'How shall we do this?' shouted his angels.

'Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,' he answered. 'Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow.' 'Persuade the wives to go to work for long hours and the husbands to work 6-7 days each week, 10-12 hours a day, so they can afford their empty lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children.' 'As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work!' 'Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still, small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. Keep the TV, VCR, CDs, and their PCs going constantly in their home and see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ.' 'Fill the coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, mail order catalogues, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes.' 'Keep skinny, beautiful models on the magazines so the husbands will believe that external beauty is what is important, and they will become dissatisfied with their wives. Ha! That will fragment those families quickly!' 'Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week'. 'Do not let them go out in nature to reflect on God's wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts, and movies instead.' 'Keep them busy, busy, busy! And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotions.''Go ahead, let thern be involved in soul winning; but crowd their lives with so rnany good causes they have no tirne to seek power frorn Jesus.'

'Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause.'

It will work! It will work!

It was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busier and more rushed, going here and there.

...Do you see how disasterous distractions can be? And it's hard not to fall accustomed to them. Especially when "everyone else is doing it." Fortunately, Paul directs Timothy there too. In chater 4 verses 16-18 Paul discribes a time when NO ONE came to his defense. NO ONE was going against the grain as he was. But he says "the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." I've come to realize that sometimes God asks us to do things we're not comfortable with. And often times this requires going it alone. Or so it would appear...How easy it is for me to forget that the LORD is standing at my side.

Paul knew Timothy wasn't perfect. And, thankfully, God knows we're not either. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:13 "If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." Be encouraged! You're going to get distracted. I'm going to get distracted. But the Lord will stand at our sides forever! He will remain faithful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sovereign Sufferings

This year I've been going through the devotional Take My Heart Oh God by Sarah Young. Today's was extra special to me. I hope it will bring you just as much encouragement as it has brought me :)

"All my sufferings, by admirable management of omnipotent Goodness, have concurred to promote my spiritual and eternal good." -Susanna Wesley

Do Susanna Wesley's words resonate with you? She was a mother of nineteen children. Some of her children made her proud - and some didn't. She lost her home twice - to arsonists. And once, her husband went on a preaching tour for almost a year, leaving her to fend for herself with the children. Yet somewhere along the way, she learned to accept God's sovereignty and to believe in his "omnipotent goodness."

What about you? Is your home or marriage in jeopardy? Are you struggling with children in some way? Has another person's malice touched your life? Then look to the strength of women like Susanna Wesley who know just how you feel. Heed their wisdom and hold fast to the hand of the One who's managing your suffering for your eternal good.

His all-powerful goodness watches over you.

Read 1 Peter 4:12-13

Sovereign Lord, thank You that Your omnipotent goodness watches over my life. I oven overlook this. I know You have a plan and purpose for my life, but sometimes I forget my sufferings are part of that plan. Sometimes I forget this waiting period is part of Your plan. You are in control over everything...I have not slipped from Your mind. You have not forgotten about me. Please let Your precious truths be engraved on my heart so that I will not forgot or be discouraged. Thank you, Daddy, for choosing to love me. Help me fall more in love with you today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Troubled Heart

Do you know what troubles and even breaks my heart? A statement shared by two of my best gal-pals (who are two of the most breath-taking, God-fearing young women I know). After being rudely talked to (or rather talked at) and mistreated by various christian young men, they came to me and reported: "If THESE are "godly" men...we want no part. We might as well start dating unbelievers because they value us more. They treat us better."

I'll be honest, my first response was to start secretly attacking verbally these young men. But that wouldn't wouldn't help these young women OR settle my heart. In fact, it would probably make things worse. So, after praying for some discernment...I've come to a few conclusions.

Firstly, ladies nooooo! You have it all wrong. Absolutely under no circumstances should you EVER lower your standards or resort to something that goes agains God's word. These unbelieving men you talk of do not value you more. They are not more loyal to you. They are not more faithful to you. They do not treat you better. They DECEIVE you better.

Just like the deceptive slithering serpent from the Garden of Eden lied to Eve, you have been lied to! That sneaky snake lied to Eve. He looked her in the eye and told her that she shouldn't trust God. He told her that the fruit was harmless. It wouldn't hurt her; it would open her eyes so she could be like God. She should want more than the boring fruit God gave her. No, no, no! Poor Eve...I wonder if she even knew what a lie was? She had never been lied to before.

But ladies, WE have been lied to before. WE know what a lie is! And this, my precious friends, is a BIG, FAT, UGLY, LIE! I promise you, there ARE men of God worthy of your hearts.

Do you remember the story of Ruth? She found her man of God because she trusted in God. She was loyal to Naomi and she decided to put her trust in God. Because of that, God was faithful to her and through a series of perfectly orchestrated events, God brough Ruth and Boaz together. The Bible calls Boaz her kinsman-redeemer. But do you know what? It was easy for Boaz to love Ruth because she was "a woman of noble character" (Ruth 3:11).

Do you see what I see? It's easy to play the blame game. It's easy to say that everything is the man's fault. But if we are going to call ourselves women of faith and daughters of the King, we need to act like it! Not only do we need to be women of nobel character, we need to trust that God knows best. His timing is perfect and His word is trustworthy.

2 Timothy 4:16-17 says "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone abandoned me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." God knows that this walk is tough. He knows that many times we are abandoned by everyone- even fellow believers. He knows that wholeheartedly God-seeking believers are few these days. That's why He promises to stand at our side!

In Breaking Free by Beth Moore, she writes "If our liberty in Christ is going to be a reality in life, we are going to have to learn to walk in the freedom of Christ, independent of everyone else we know." When it comes down to it...God says that it is not our business what anyone else is doing. WE are to follow Him in ALL circumstances. That might mean not having a boyfriend right now. That might mean staying in school longer than you wanted. That might mean being honest in a tough situation. That might mean not gossiping with your friends. That might mean standing up tall and saying no to drinking or drugs or sex. Whatever it means for you...GOD is our measure - NOT the world and NOT other believers. Be encouraged, God knows the desires of your heart. He MADE your heart. And He wants to bless you. In fact, He wants to lavishly pour blessings over you. Just trust Him.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Unexpected Letter

The past few weeks I have felt very discouraged. I can't even really put my finger on why. It's a busy time of year with school, and I've been spending a lot of time along studying. I generally really enjoy studying, but lately I've just felt lonely. As a warm-blooded human being, the nature embedded in my DNA has been screaming "I need people!!" And, as a woman, my heart has been longing for someone to seek me out.

I have been blessed with some amazing friends who have been a real encouragement to me. Lots of kind words and knowing smiles have warmed my heart. But, the sweetest suprise was left in my mailbox today. It was a much needed reminder in the form of a letter. This is what it said:

You were made in my image and
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
It is my desire to lavish my love on you
for I am your Provider and I meet all your needs.
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope
Because I have loved you with an everlasting love.
My thoughts towards you are as countless as the sand on the seashore and
I rejoice over you with singing.
You are my treasured possession and
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
I want to show you great and marvelous things.
If you seek me with all your heart you will find me.
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart because
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine and
I am your greatest encourager.
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
When you are broken-hearted I am close to you.
As a shepherd carries a lamb I have carried you close to my heart.
I will never stop doing good to you and
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.
I have always been your Father and I will always be.
My love for you is mighty and everlasting.
your Dad

Almighty God